Tag Archives: boston

Boston by Foot Walking Tour: The North End and Victorian Back Bay

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I really love my architectural walks.  I think in my previous life I was meant to be a builder or an architect of some sort.  I remember being a kid and looking at buildings, libraries, my school, restaurants, shopping malls from a pram’s perspective and wondering how they were made, who made them, why they were made etc.  For a lil kid – there was a lot of ‘deep thoughts’ happening.  There still are let me tell you.  😉

I know the City of Toronto does some cool walking tours but I haven’t attended one.  Mainly because the one’s I want to go on always fall on a Sunday and this girl always works on Sundays.   It’s my Monday in my world. 

Check out the City of Toronto’s Walking Tour’s here:  http://www.heritagetoronto.org/discover-toronto/walk  I’m determined at one point this summer to at least get to one walk or two in my hometown City of Toronto.

When I was in Boston I found a neat lil company by the name of Boston By Foot that offered cultural and architectural walks of Boston’s City Centre.  I decided to take two tours.  One of the North End and the other of the Victorian Back Bay.

The North End

America’s oldest neighbourhood is a delightful labyrinth of narrow streets and exotic marketplaces. The walking tour of the North End makes the perfect companion to the Heart of the Freedom Trail continuing on through second mile of Boston’s famous historic walk.

A gateway for immigrants from around the world, the North End is also home to the Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, and the Paul Revere House. Isolated from the rest of downtown by the construction the old Central Artery in the 1950’s, the North End remains largely preserved from modern development.

Upon entering the North End, I was greeted by the new North End parks of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. Walking among the Italian markets and downtown Boston’s largest collection of colonial buildings, I heard the story of a changing neighbourhood from the time of Cotton Mather, to the exploits of Paul Revere, the rise of the Fitzgeralds, the fall of molasses and present day regentrification.

Victorian Back Bay

On this tour I learned about the filling of the Back Bay, the creation of the neighbourhood, and how this was enabled by the development of new technology in the mid-1800s. Designed to imitate the grand boulevards of Paris, the Back Bay is one of the few areas of Boston where the streets are straight and the sidewalks wide.

I joined my guide in front of Trinity Church and walked back in time to view splendid examples of Victorian architecture.

Boston’s Back Bay embraces one of America’s richest collections of art and architecture. The treasures of Back Bay and Copley Square include grand rows of Back Bay townhouses, Trinity Church, the Boston Public Library, and New Old South Church.

Check out Boston By Foot’s website here:  http://www.bostonbyfoot.org/

Regular 2012 Season

May 1 – October 31

There are different meet up times for each of the tours – check ahead online or at the time of booking.

Duration: 1 hr. 30 min.

$12 adults

$8 children (6-12)

I would suggest giving the Docent’s a lil tip – they work for free!  For $12 I guarantee you will get your walking and cultural dose worth and more.  You can tell the Docent’s truly enjoy interacting with folks and teaching about Boston’s glory.  Pay it forward and give them a lil something to let them how much you appreciate their time.  It will make them smile.  😉 

Thank you to Veronika for booking me on these tours as well as Michelle and Ellen for being amazing Docents while I was in Boston.  You made my trip an amazing architectural and cultural journey into Boston’s historical past!

Yours in travel,

Mel xo

Boston Chocolate Tours: BOSTON CHOCOLATE TOUR OF THE SOUTH END

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One of the best parts of my trip to Boston last November was the Boston Chocolate Tour I took of the South End of Boston.  It was such a blast and I got to meet some cool people too.  I love taking off the beaten track tours when I travel.  It gives me a real flavour of the neighbourhoods and a grass roots take from its locals.

The November Fall weather made for a lovely jaunt around town and the eating of crazy amounts of chocolate from some pretty swish boutique cafes and shops whilst I was on holiday.  On the tour be ready to pick up plenty of samples on the way, plus tips on tasting, buying and storing fine chocolate.  Each participant also receives a VIP Card, good for discounts and VIP treatment at local gourmet businesses.

I was glad that the leader gave us a Ziploc bag that came along with my goodie bag at the start of our journey.  I came with a full belly but man I can eat only so much chocolate.  I’m glad I saved the lion’s share of the samples.  They came to good use when I was able to eat them for dinner on my flight back to Toronto.  😉  Holla!

BOSTON CHOCOLATE TOUR OF THE SOUTH END runs on Saturdays at 2:00PM

 The exclusive 2 ½-hour walking tour highlights the historic South End neighborhood. This area is home to elegant Victorian brick row houses, many dating from the 1800s, and one of the most diverse populations in Boston.

Some of the destinations we visited were:

 •Feature stop: ChocoLee  – this award winning chocolate shop is owned by Lee Napoli one of Yankee Magazine’s Top 5 Chocolate Makers

 •Enjoy chocolate heaven in the form of a homemade Oreo at a bakery owned by Celebrity Chef Joanne Chang

 •Yelp reviews call this hidden spot’s “chocolate chip cookies” to die for

 •A neighborhood landmark restaurant with a celebrity chef shares their special chocolate martini during their pajama brunch

 •The best homemade chocolate ice cream in Boston can be found at this Pizza restaurant

 •Enjoy cupcakes named The Madison, The Harriet and The Simon voted “The Best of Boston” by the Improper Bostonian

 •Rosie’s Bakery is not in the South End but their famous chocolate orgasm is and we know where to find and sample it.

The Boston Chocolate Tour of the South End meets on Saturday afternoon’s at 2:00PM at Code 10, 1638 Washington Street in Boston’s South End. The walk itself is moderate and it ends near the Boston Center for the Arts.

My favourite spot on the chocolate walking tour was a stop at the world renowned Flour Bakery.  The homemade Oreo Cookie were to die for and the gluten free brownies were enough to put me into diabetic shock.  I’m glad I indulged on the trip early on because tons of walking was needed to work that decadence off.  😉

I even found the book ‘Flour’ by Joanne Chang that housed the recipes for these two gorgeous creations.  It retails for $35.00 USD from Chronicle Books.  Check it out here:

‘Flour’ by Joanne Chang $35.00 USD from Chronicle Books

‘Flour’ by Joanne Chang $35.00 USD from Chronicle Books

Advance tickets required for any of the Boston Chocolate Tours – tour size is limited to 14.  Check them out here:  http://www.bostonchocolatetours.com/tours/

Thank you to Victoria and Veronique for such a fun and highly educated chocolate walking tour!

Yours,

Mel xo

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Review

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I’m hardly a JFK phile but when I was doing my Boston research I saw a picture of the JFK Presidential Library and Museum and thought I needed to carve sometime out in my schedule to see it. 

I took the Red Line to JFK/Umass on a Sunday afternoon and waited around for the free shuttle to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.  Dead easy and dead quick.  The only harsh thing that day was that it was bleeding cold.  Hey when is it not in Boston in November? 😉

As we were travelling by bus up to the library I remembered that Umass is where Frank Black from the Pixies went to University.  😉  It made me smile.  Passing the Umass campus there were loads of people milling about on that cold Boston afternoon taking photo’s as you do of a world renowned university.

When the bus finally pulled up to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum; the photo’s I had seen on line did nothing for how beautiful of a structure it was in person.  It was glorious.  White, clean lines, beautifully maintained, modern and very emblematic of holding a prestigious political figures loving pieces that adorned his home and family’s life while he was alive.

The striking I.M Pei building lies peacefully on Boston’s waterfront.   Located on Columbia Point, the Library and Museum is set on a ten acre park landscaped with pine trees, shrubs and wild roses reminiscent of the landscape of Cape Cod familiar to President Kennedy.

The Museum has three theaters, period settings, and 25 dramatic multimedia exhibits, and enter the recreated world of the Kennedy Presidency for a “first-hand” experience of John F. Kennedy’s life, legacy, and leadership.

There were a lot of kids milling about on the day.   It was neat to see how energetic and excited they were to see historical pieces from their country’s history. 

Pieces from the permanent exhibits that are worth looking at are The Space Program, The Oval Office, First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and The Kennedy Family. 

The special exhibit which was also of interest is ‘In Her Voice: Jacqueline Kennedy, The White House Years’.    Mrs. Kennedy’s 1964 oral history interview which was sealed for 47 years and published in September 2011 is a series of wide-ranging conversations with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., in which Mrs. Kennedy reveals her thoughts and impressions on topics spanning John F. Kennedy’s early campaigns to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The conversations cover Mrs. Kennedy’s impressions of world leaders and events, her role as First Lady, and her life as a wife and mother living inside the White House.   This in itself is worth the $12 admission.

Jackie’s dresses and jewellery were nicely curated and stunning up close.  I spoke to a staff member who stated that the pieces rotated on a regular basis.  So the pieces I saw today wouldn’t be there next month.  I wished I could see all of her Oleg Cassini numbers that afternoon in one shot. 

I found the highlights from the museum’s artefacts collection to be stunning.  Check it out here for a sneak peek:  http://www.jfklibrary.org/Exhibits/Museum-Artifacts.aspx

How do you get there?

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125

(617) 514-1600

Toll free (866) JFK-1960

http://www.jfklibrary.org/

The Library and Museum is easily accessed by public transportation. Take the MBTA Rapid Transit, Red Line (any red line train) to JFK/UMASS Station. There is a free shuttle bus to the Library every 20 minutes beginning at 8:00 a.m. and running until Museum closing. Please take the buses marked ‘JFK.’

When is it open?

The Museum is open 7 days per week, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with the exception of New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. The last Introductory Film of the day is at 3:55 p.m.

Museum Admission

Adults $12.00, Seniors (62 and over) and Students (with valid college ID) $10.00, Ages 13-17 $9.00, Children 12 and under are free.

Thank you to Rachel Flor for your assistance in helping me put this piece together!

Yours in travel,

Mel xo

Boston Bakery Review: Mike’s Pastry (Boston, MA)

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Mmmmmmm as I flip through my Boston travel pictures I’m reminded instantly of the lovely scents of baked goods at Mike’s Pastry in the North end of Boston.

I was on a walking tour of the North End one afternoon when I asked the tour guide, Michelle, why it seemed like every other person had a Mike’s Pastry box.  She mentioned, well Mike’s is the place you go when you want great desserts.  It’s either you like Mike’s or Modern’s baked goods when you live in Boston. 

So one night after walking around town all day – I found myself starving and got on the trolley a few stops to Haymarket Subway station and walked across the street to find a place to catch some dinner.  The wait for one restaurant was endless so after popping my name down I wandered over to Hanover street determined to pick up a couple of treats for my after dinner meal.

According to Mike’s Pastry’s website:

‘The streets of Boston’s North End have been in no small part defined by the ongoing legacy of Annette and Mike, their ancestors and enormous extended family and the spirit and inspiration brought to the North End of Boston by this neighbourhood-defining family.’

What do they sell?  Well Italian pastry, biscotti, cakes, cookies, pies, squares, torrone, American favourites, gelati and marzipan.

I had no idea what to get when I got into the bakery.  There were people everywhere and man it was overwhelming.  By the time I go to the counter I saw the red velvet cupcakes just staring at me and the lemon cello cupcakes looked amazing too.  There were rows and rows of cannolli’s, cakes, slices of cakes, brownies….oh man. 

When the lady behind the counter asked me in a traditional Bawstin accent (tee hee) what I wanted I gave her my order and also asked her which cannolli was the most popular.  She told me the chocolate chip cannolli was a hot seller.  So she added that to my order too.

After my meal at the restaurant I got back to my hotel and put the kettle on.  I got into bed and peeled the wrapper off the lemon cello cupcake.  I bit into it and a lemon jelly oozed out of it.  The cake was velvety and so fresh.  The icing was very sweet but tied the cake and jelly together perfectly.  I went into sugar shock after that.  I don’t think I got out of bed for awhile after that and I my tea was already steeping.  Ughh.

After my shower – I dove into the chocolate chip cannolli.  Man, heaven.  In Toronto the cannolli’s I usually buy tend to be too crunchy and the mascarpone cheese slightly hard.  Mike’s cannolli’s, the pastry was soft but not too soft and the cheese was luscious.  The chocolate chips were just enough and not overpowering.  I ate small bites as I sipped my second tea that night.  Pure joy.

When I woke up the next morning I was so tired but I remembered I still had the red velvet cupcake in the box on my desk.  I picked up the cupcake and took a bite….the cake again was velvety smooth with a hint of cocoa.  The icing was so overindulgent.  I really should not have been having it for breakfast but nevertheless it went down quickly and man I felt like a lucky girl after it.

 I wish I had more time in Boston to indulge in Mike’s goodies…but maybe it was a good thing that I discovered him on my last night in Boston.  Especially for my waist line’s sake. 😉

http://www.mikespastry.com/mm5/merchant.mvc

Mike’s Pastry

300 Hanover St  Boston, Massachusetts 02113, United States

 (617) 742-3050

Yours in baking,

Mel xo

Boston Hotel Review: The Nine Zero a Kimpton Hotel

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I’ve always been a fan of Kimpton Hotels.  They are a swish, young, civilized, hip boutique hotel chain that really is the only hotel chain you should be patronizing when you travel.  Tall order?  Well I stand by it.

The first Kimpton Hotel hotel I stayed at was when I moved back from Manchester, England and booked a quick Vancouver getaway on my own at the Pacific Palisades.  I had read about Kimpton and their brand of offering a cheery, upbeat, a lil bit eccentric but overall cool hotel experience that you won’t get anywhere else.  Since then I have also stayed the Hotel Triton in San Francisco over a 5 day birthday vacation 3 summers ago.  Both experiences were simply divine.

After my summer holiday debacle in Chicago I wanted a cool, leisure and really decadent fall vacation.  I had 5 days to play with so I booked a holiday to Boston.  I did some thorough research and after looking at crazy expensive hotels in the city centre and bed and breakfasts; I settled on the Nine Zero Hotel.  I knew the Kimpton brand would offer me what I needed.

The Nine Zero Hotel sets the Standard for Boston Boutique Hotels.  That’s what I was aching for.  Perfection.  Comfort is not sacrificed for the sake of style at Nine Zero Hotel. All 190 sumptuously appointed guestrooms invite guests to relax. Custom-designed beds, billowy down comforters, and a wide selection of pillows complement the beautiful furnishings, plush fabrics, soothing color scheme and elegant lighting throughout.

When I flew into Boston I took the free shuttle to the subway and hopped on the train which took me to Government Centre Station.  Total travel time was 15 minutes.  Easy.  Upon leaving the station I walked up a couple of blocks with my duffle bag to the Nine Zero.  Again, easy.  By the way, the hotel takes its name from its street address 90 Tremont Street.

The staff at the desk was super friendly as we exchanged booking details.  I was greeted by Thomas.  Thomas prior to my arrival had sent me a lovely email days in advance asking if I needed anything and saw to it that I had all my needs met prior to my arrival.  Efficiency at its best.

He was authentically friendly and lovely.  He even arranged to have a lovely platter of fruits, nuts and specialty water placed in my room as a welcome treat.  He also went beyond the call of duty by providing me with the lushest room on the 19th floor facing Boston Common.  The room was nicely dressed; it was clean and very warm.  Lastly, Thomas also sent a kettle, mugs and some gorgeous Mighty leaf Tea to my room.  That was the most helpful accommodation he could have provided me with.  Being a tea lover I love starting my day lounging, sipping tea, reading and watching t.v..  Just that simple touch made me feel at home and yet still lost in my vacation moments.  😉

The funky robe in my hotel bathroom always made me chuckle.  But again exuded warmth and comfort for a weary traveller.

Whenever I came into my room on a long day out the room’s CD player was on and playing jazzy, bluesy tunes, the linens were always turned down, the lights were low and the lovely chocolate beckoned me from my desk.  Consistency to detail is what Kimpton does well.  I felt like I had a personal maid taking care of my space when I was out but not overly present.  Those were nice touches.

Other cool amenities that the Nine Zero offers include of:

Complimentary in-room wireless high-speed Internet access for Kimpton In Touch members

Complimentary morning newspaper upon request

27″ Flat screen TVs and in-room laptop safe

iHome docking station

24-hour room service

Windows that open, breathe…

Fully-Stocked Honor Bar (for those late night munchies)

“Forgot It? We’ve Got It!” essential travel items

“Mind. Body. Spa.” in-room spa services as well as exercise programs for yoga, Pilates and core strengthening

Etro Bath Amenities, ooh la la!

Lastly, cable t.v. with a wide selection of channels.  For a girl who doesn’t have cable in my own house…it was awesome coming back to my hotel room, lying in bed and watching some pretty amazing t.v..  Lil luxuries go such a long way on vacation mode. 😉

I know staying in a hotel right in the city centre could be pricey.  But I encourage you to think of this, when you travel and you’re out all day and need a break – staying local is important.  You can go back to the hotel for a nap, drop of gear, change clothes, use the bathroom, have a shower and then get out again.  Paying a lil extra especially whilst on holidays is so worth it.  You work hard for your money, why not splurge a lil?  I’m so glad I did.  The hotel sits close to both Park and Government subway stations.

The Nine Zero is also close to:

Beacon Hill, Orpheum Theatre, the Wang Center for the Performing Arts and the Boston Ballet, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Museum of Fine Arts – Boston, the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, the Museum of Science and the Children’s Museum, The New England Aquarium, Boston Common, Copley Square, Boston’s Public Library,  Trinity Church, Newbury Street and Public Garden.   

So yes, those were all very good things.  Anything bad?  Well in my room the air filter rattled relentlessly on my last night.  It really hindered my sleep and man it was quite upsetting.  It was too bad the hotel staff didn’t pick up on that when they were in the room daily.  The other slightly annoying thing was that I was charged (but then credited upon check out) for using an item from the honour bar in my room.  It was an honest mistake.  But curious.  Lastly, when I made a request for some teabags one night it took almost 45 minutes to get them from hospitality.  Again not a big deal but it wasn’t that late and dropping off teabags to one’s room really shouldn’t take that long.

Would I stay at the Nine Zero again?  Sure!  I loved the banter with Andrew Smith (Front Office Manager), Thomas Burke (Lead Concierge) and the comfort they were able to provide for the duration of my stay at the Nine Zero Hotel Kimpton Hotel in November 2011.  Also a special thank you to Stacey!  Go Kimpton!  Rating out of 5?  I give them a solid 5/5!  😉

NINE ZERO HOTEL:   90 Tremont Street, Boston, MA  02108  http://www.ninezero.com

Reservations:  (866) 906-9090 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (866) 906-9090      end_of_the_skype_highlighting     

Hotel:  (617) 772-5800